The Burqa Affair across Europe Between Public and Private Space By Alessandro Ferrari and Sabrina Pastorelli, eds. (Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2013. 268 pages.)

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Anna Piela



This edited collection provides a comprehensive analysis of the legal contexts
within which the “burqa affair” is located across Europe. It was published following
the December 2012 “Secularism and Religious Diversity in Europe:
Opportunities and Perspectives” conference organized under the auspices of
the RELIGARE project (Religious Diversity and Secular Models in Europe).
Its aims are ambitious and commendable: to analyze the socio-legal situation
of face-veil wearers in eight Western European countries where regulations
range from outright bans (disguised under the tagline of banning full or partial
face coverings to avoid reasonable allegations of religious discrimination directed
at the already besieged European Muslim populations) to the simultaneous
lack of general prohibitions but specific rulings against full-face veils.
Despite the baffling personal interpolations made by some contributors
to express their personal dislike of this practice (e.g., p. 5), they nevertheless
recommend in their collective conclusion that legislators should not introduce
general prohibitions into the common space (i.e., “the physical territory that
people must necessarily enter to meet their basic needs,” p. 53), for doing so
would unjustly criminalize those who exercise their personal rights, be they
religious or human. However, they do allow for restrictions based on a caseby-
case approach.
The contributions are significant in that they display the frequent tension
that exists between the local anti-burqa movements’ introduction and enactment
of local and regional anti-face-veil legislation and the various national
legal systems, European law, and human rights frameworks. Many of the cases
presented illuminate the issues under discussion in national contexts. For example,
Lisbet Christofersson’s “A Quest for Open Helmets: On the Danish
Burqa Affair” and Jorn Thielmann and Kathrin Vorholzer’s “Burqa in ...

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